We started by showing the stuff that computers are made of. It all begins with common sand,
which consists mostly of silicon dioxide (quartz). Using chemical methods, the sand is converted
to pure silicon. Very pure silicon, 99.999 999% -- you can\u2019t get anything more pure.
Pure silicon is a funny material. It shines like a metal, but is breakable like a ceramic. It is a
semiconductor. That means it is on the edge: does it conduct electricity or doesn\u2019t it? Well, we
can make it do both: make it conduct, or make it stop conducting.We can switch an electrical
current in silicon on or off, at will, and very, very fast. From silicon, we make fast switches!
A whole bunch of those switches together make a chip, which is put inside a plastic cover.
A bunch of chips are mounted on a printed circuit board.
A bunch of boards make an electronic box: a VCR, a TV, a radio, a computer.
Well, of course you need more stuff, like a power supply, a display, a hard drive, and a box to fit
it all in. But the heart of anything electronic is those silicon switches.
We do know that they do what they are told. You push a button, and the computer does it. It does exactly what youtell it to do (which is not necessarily what youmeant it to do...). It follows instructions.
Computers move information, for example your book report from the disk to the printer.
Or a file from the Internet to your display screen, or to your own hard disk. They store
information (all the book reports you have written are stored on the hard disk), and they
manage it (you can find it again).
This class is going to explore just that: how we can do cool things, such as writing text, making
pictures and calculating with switches. Just like computers do.
This is called switch logic, or Boolean logic, after George Boole (English mathematician,
1815-1864), who was the first to think of it -- long before electronics existed!
Interior light in a car: goes on when any door is opened (driver\u2019s side dooror passenger\u2019s
side dooror driver\u2019s side back dooror ...). But you have to think a little: when the car door
isopened, an electrical switch (usually in the door jamb) is actuallyclosed to allow the
current to flow to light up the lamp. Can you find those light switches on your car?
The following diagrams are the first circuits we explore: an OR circuit and an AND circuit. While the diagrams are drawn as if these are electrical circuits (a light goes on if the correct switches are closed), we actually demonstrated these with a water circuit, consisting of a reservoir on top, a catch basin at the bottom, tubes instead of wires, and valves for switches. George Boole\u2019s switch logic works for water just as it does for electricity!
For the diagrams below, imagine a teacher asking a question. If they think the answer is \u201cYes\u201d,
then the students press a switch on their desk.
In the OR circuit, if either Annieor Bert say \u201cYes\u201d (press their switch) then the light goes on.
(It also works if they both press their switch).
In the AND circuit, both Annieand Bert have to agree that the answer is YES, and both have to
press their switches for the light to go on.
The \u201cSAME\u201d circuit above is a combination of AND and OR. The effect is that the light will be
on if Annie and Bert both say \u201cyes\u201d, or both say \u201cno\u201d to a teacher\u2019s question, in other words, if
they both agree. The logic is:(yes_AAND yes_B)OR (no_AAND no_B).
This is also known as an \u201cequivalence\u201d circuit.
If the yes_A and no_A switches were reversed, then this would be a \u201cNOT-THE-SAME\u201d circuit
\u201cexclusive OR\u201d: The light goes on if Annie OR Bert says yes, but not both (they disagree -- just
as you would expect from Annie and Bert!). An abbreviation for \u201cexclusive or\u201d is XOR, and it
turns out that this is a very handy circuit to have around.
\u201cSame\u201d or \u201cnot-the-same\u201d circuits are used wherever a computer makes comparisons.
Another example of a \u201cSAME\u201d circuit (though wired differently): hall lights in a house with an
upstairs and downstairs switch.
The other circuit, above on the right, looks very similar. The difference is who controls the
switches. In the \u201cCHOICE\u201d circuit, the top two switches are controlled by the teacher, who
makes to choice to listen to Annie or to listen to Bert. If the teacher switches on Annie, then
Annie can answer a question by pressing her switch, and Bert\u2019s answer is ignored. And the other
The fancy name for such a circuit is a \u201cmultiplexer\u201d, and it is used wherever a choice is made in
a logic circuit.
Now bringing you back...
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